Collier commissioners tighten rules on development

Land Development Code amendments must have two hearings. A final hearing is set for June 12.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

By DENISE ZOLDAN, dczoldan@naplesnews.com

Saying they are giving citizens what they want, Collier County commissioners took a wrench to the county's rule book for development Wednesday night, tightening it in several spots.

Among other changes, commissioners approved an amendment to the Land Development Code that requires an estimated 14 to 16 older planned developments that have not begun construction to return for new approval or prove they have not begun building through no fault of their own.

"We need some flexibility to accommodate petitioners in the event they are not able to proceed because of reasons they had no control over such as moratoriums and permits," Commissioner Fred Coyle said.

Commissioners also changed the code to require new planned developments to come back for approval within three years if they haven't begun construction.

Planned Unit Developments are planned communities that have commission approval for often hundreds of residential units as well as commercial spaces. The 14 to 16 existing PUDs were approved under development rules that no longer exist. Commissioners wanted to get the old PUDs off the books because they do not adhere to more modern planning ideas the county is now adopting.

Urban planners now say smart growth allows some commercial and residential units to coexist side-by-side in a way that allows residents to shop and conduct other business without leaving the development, thereby not clogging main roads. The modern developments also have interconnecting roads so residents can drive to nearby stores without entering the major highways.

Commissioners said they are changing the land development code in response to the community's concerns about development.

"The direction we are going in is really what the community wants," Commissioner Tom Henning said. "We are going to get what the community wants."

Many of the code changes approved Wednesday night were in direct response to community outcry over particular issues including the following code changes that:

n Do away with the possibility of developers reducing side-yard setbacks by designing wedding-cake type buildings where the first floor of a structure can be wider than upper floors and the side-yard setbacks are based on the height of the first floor.

Commissioners clarified that setbacks must equal half the height of the building. Vanderbilt Beach residents are fighting to get a high-rise condo under construction on Vanderbilt Drive torn down because they say it does not adhere to the county height rules.

n Delete language that allows the planning director to grant approval for conditional uses not specifically addressed in the code. Such requests would now go before commissioners. Residents have been critical of this rule, saying it gives too much power to a bureaucrat.

n Amend parking rules in several ways, including allowing driveways to be 20 feet wide or 40 percent of the front yard, whichever is larger. Residents in Naples Manor, Naples Park and Golden Gate complained about residents parking cars all over front yards, resulting in new countywide rules for parking and driveway widths.

n Allow county wells to be approved by the state only, dropping the conditional use process.

n Allow businesses to buy and sell in bulk gas and diesel fuel to farmers in the farm market overlay subdistrict in Immokalee, a small area off New Market Road.

n Require commercial businesses on property adjacent to residential property to house business vehicles in an enclosed building, unless commissioners grant a conditional use.

n Remove churches as permitted uses in commercial areas, making them seek conditional uses from commissioners. Staff said the change is needed because churches now have so many accessory buildings, conditional uses are necessary.

n Allow murals that promote the community to be painted on building walls within the Immokalee overlay district.

n Extend adopted moratoriums in the rural fringe area until the LDC amendments proposed become effective, which could add another year to the moratorium. The moratorium is set to end in January.

n Clarify requirements for pedestrian walkways between parking lots and buildings.

n Decrease the minimum distance between fire hydrants in commercial and industrial areas, multifamily areas and where single-family homes are larger than 5,000 square feet, from 500 feet to 300 feet. They also increased the distance between hydrants in residential areas from 300 feet to 500 feet.

Land Development Code amendments must have two hearings. A final hearing is set for June 12.

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